Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes made history at ONE: IRON WILL on Saturday, 24 March, as he defeated two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen to claim a pair of ONE Championship records on a spectacular night in Bangkok, Thailand.
The 37-year-old Brazilian expertly avoided the knockout power of the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Champion, before eventually scoring a last-gasp knockdown to pull away with the victory via split decision.
The gripping five-round world title tussle at the Impact Arena was filled with tension throughout, as Fernandes constantly walked down Nguyen, who had dropped to bantamweight to challenge for an unprecedented third ONE World Title.
You could cut the tension with a knife in the opening round, as a sense of anticipation permeated throughout the arena.
Both athletes showed each other plenty of respect early in the first stanza.
While that respect remained intact throughout the contest, the bout developed into a striker versus grappler match-up, with Nguyen looking to score from distance, and Fernandes using big punches to close the distance and establish his grappling game.
Such was the level of the two men’s respective defensive skill sets, both were able to nullify the best weapons of the other.
Nguyen showed expert takedown defense to keep Fernandes’ grappling attack at bay for much of the contest, while the Brazilian used his footwork and control of range to stay away from the Vietnamese-Australian’s famed knockout power.
The bout started to open up in the middle rounds, as “The Flash” found some success with his takedown attempts, and Nguyen found a home for his strikes, with his lead leg kick and straight left both proving particularly effective.
By the end of the third frame, the momentum appeared to be shifting towards “The Situ-Asian,” who was landing more consistently with his punches.
However, Fernandes was not to be denied. After much of the same in the fourth stanza, the match carried over to the fifth and final round, where “The Flash” stung the challenger with whipping leg kicks.
Most notably, with just over a minute to go, the Brazilian dropped Nguyen with a big overhand right that the Aussie did well to recover from. The match went all the way to the scorecards, but that may have proved to be the most decisive moment of the contest.
When the judges’ scores were announced, it was “The Flash” who took the spoils, as he retained the ONE Bantamweight World Title by the narrowest of margins with a split decision verdict.
Fernandes’ win took his record to 22-3 and extended his win streak to 14. He also continued his record run of successful world title defenses to eight, and registered the most wins in ONE Championship history with 10.
Undoubtedly, he cemented his position as the most dominant champion in the promotion’s history.
Nguyen, meanwhile, drops to 10-2, and will look to continue his remarkable story as he moves on to defend his ONE Featherweight and Lightweight titles later this year. After a battle as close as that, however, do not rule out a rematch either.